Former St. Louis Cardinals manager sued Twitter in June of 2009 after he discovered a fake account in his name, according to ESPN. The lawsuit arose when Tweets from the fake account were posted about the Cardinals losing two out of three games in April of that year, and making it home “without one drunk driving incident or dead pitcher.” The Tweet was a tasteless reference to former Cardinals reliever Josh Hancock, who died in April of 2007 after a drunken driving accident. Darryl Kile, another Cardinals pitcher, died in 2002 of a heart condition. The La Russa case and the one involving former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and his fake online girlfriend got all the headlines. But a study published in the Touro Law Review last October drew a direct positive correlation between the rapid growth of social media websites and online impersonation crimes. State legislators have been slow to address the issue. Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, California and Washington are the only states that have criminal statutes that specifically address online impersonation, according to Business Insider. Arizona is considering a bill, while the U.S. House of Representatives passed an anti-impersonation bill last year that is still going through the legislative process, as PainDependent.com reports. Despite the laws aiming to prevent these crimes, Americans should be proactive in protecting themselves from becoming a victim.
Take Immediate Action
The minute you discover a phony social media account in your name, a disclaimer should be posted on your real account or website. Take screenshots of the offending profile and the posts thereof. Note any friends or followers the fake account has, as they could potentially have information leading to the source of the fake account. Facebook has a simple form for victims to fill out and report an imposter account that has been created. Twitter also makes it very simple to report a phony account. Contact an attorney to find out any legal options available to you. The more information you have, the easier it will be to build a case. An attorney will be able to subpoena the IP addresses from Facebook and Twitter to help determine the source of the account.
Be Smart With Social Media
Another way cyber criminals can impersonate you is by taking control of your actual social media account. Never use the “remember password” functions on social media sites, especially when using public computers. Log off your account when you’re not using it. Closing the browser window does not sign you out. Use strong passwords with capital and small letters, along with numbers and symbols. This will make it much more difficult and even impossible for hackers to figure it out.
It’s a good idea to periodically search your name in Google, Yahoo and Bing to see if anything malicious comes up. Setting up a Google Alert or using a service like Talk Walker free alerts to notify you of any mentions of your name across the internet is a good way to automate the process. An impersonator can destroy your business and personal reputation in a matter of minutes. The more proactive you are, the better protected you’ll be.